Last week, I wrote about Americans who turned to overseas work as an alternative to the lousy U.S. job market. Researching that column made me wonder what the heck I was doing growing moss under my toes in the Pacific Northwest.
Don't get me wrong. I love working as a freelance writer, and I cherish my Seattle home, along with many other places I've visited and lived in North America. But I haven't traveled in eons, and the idea of upping and moving my life to Madrid or Moscow or Mumbai or Matsumoto had me more than a tad curious.
Sure, there's work as a tour guide, a ESL teacher or an au pair to be had by Americans living on foreign soil. But for those eager to trade in their T-shirts and backpacks, what about decent-paying gigs in the international business sector?
According to a survey conducted in late 2009 by Cartus Corporation, a company that specializes in employee relocation assistance, white collar jobs abroad are on the rise. A majority of the 200 North and South American, European, Middle Eastern, African and Asian human resources professionals polled by Cartus said they expect to see an increase in international assignments this year.
So how do you go from a bored, disgruntled or underemployed American worker to a hotshot global candidate who catches the eye of a multinational firm looking to fill a full-time position in another country? To find out, I spoke with several international recruiters, U.S. expats working abroad and career advisors who specialize in overseas work.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to move to Italy or Indonesia to gain global work experience. Career experts agree that working for an international company right here in the United States can be a great start.
If your employer has offices abroad, seek opportunities to work on international accounts or projects, take overseas business trips or have a hand in overseas operations. Then, after adding a few international notches to your employment belt, get to know the recruiter responsible for overseas assignments at your company.
"These positions are plum, so if your goal is to work overseas, start aiming yourself in that direction as soon as possible. You don't want to wait 10 years to get that job," said author and career counselor Robin Ryan, whose books include the bestseller, "60 Seconds & You're Hired!"
Not only do U.S. multinationals often make international assignments from within, many of them will pay for your move, and some still offer expat benefits like apartment and automobile stipends.
As an added bonus, "The company transferring you will deal with most of the legal paperwork and visa issues," said Chantal Panozzo, a magazine writer from Chicago who moved to Baden, Switzerland in 2006. "Sometimes they'll even pay for someone to do your taxes."
While impressive to both U.S. and overseas employers, it's not enough to have a resume sprinkled with international travel, business projects or volunteer stints.
"In today's day and age, having a global worldview is necessary," said Avi Rubel, North American director of Masa Israel Journey, an organization that matches recent college grads with internships in Israel. "People are looking for cross-cultural awareness more than anything."